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Google's Chromecast usurps Apple TV in streaming content device race

Cheap streaming media players like Google's Chromecast and Amazon's Fire TV are gobbling up marketshare from streaming device heavyweights Apple and Roku, with Apple TV dropping its long-held second place spot to the Internet search giant's latest attempt on the living room.

According to fresh data from market research firm Parks Associates, the streaming media device industry shifted in 2014 toward upstart players Google and Amazon, with previous giants Apple and Roku both seeing severe drops in marketshare, reports CNET.

The entire sector is growing, as ten percent of all U.S. households with broadband connections purchased either a set-top streamer or small stick-format device during the first three quarters of 2014. Sales have already reached last year's levels and the lucrative holiday shopping season has not yet been accounted for.

Roku still leads in marketshare and accounts for 29 percent of sales, though that number is down drastically from 2013 when Roku took almost half of the market. Google Chromecast jumped into second place with a 20 percent share, ousting former No. 2 Apple TV, which currently holds 17 percent of the market. Apple shed 9 points from last year, with sales almost entirely going to Google and newcomer Amazon, which itself captured a 10 percent marketshare.

"Nearly 50% of video content that U.S. consumers watch on a TV set is non-linear, up from 38% in 2010, and it is already the majority for people 18-44," said Barbara Kraus, a director of research at Parks Associates. "The market is changing rapidly to account for these new digital media habits. Roku now offers a streaming stick, and Amazon's Fire TV streaming stick leaves Apple as the only top player without a stick product in the streaming media device category."

With a price of $99, Apple TV is seeing stiff competition from cheap hardware that offers similar functionality for a fraction of the cost. While not as robust a solution, streaming sticks like the $35 Chromecast represent less of an investment for consumers.

The streaming market will continue to grow in the coming years and Parks Associates estimates that 2017 will bring almost 50 million streaming devices sold globally.

A revamped Apple TV has long been rumored for release, though reports claim difficulties with content owners have forced Apple to push back release into 2015. Along with a possible redesign, some speculate that the upcoming Apple TV box will include motion controls similar to Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox.